In a bookend to their freshman convocation four years ago, graduating seniors gathered in Woolsey Hall in three installments Saturday and Sunday to hear remarks by top University officials.
University President Peter Salovey and Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway addressed the graduates and their families following a prayer from University Chaplain Sharon Kugler and student readings. While lauding the seniors for any goals they may pursue after Yale — finding meaningful work, maintaining loving relationships, even accumulating wealth — Salovey called on them to heal the world, invoking the Hebrew phrase “tikkun olam.”
“You’re trying to address the question: What is the purpose of life for a young graduate? … There are many perfectly fine answers,” he said. “Your purpose in life, as a graduate from Yale, is simply this: to improve the world.”
There are many ways to improve the world, Salovey went on to explain: through service, through artistry, through education.
Salovey also discussed Yale graduate Nathan Hale, class of 1773, who famously “[wished] to be useful.” Salovey urged graduates to further the contributions they have made while at Yale, not allowing these efforts to become simply “lines on [their] resumes.”
“Find that part of the world that feels chipped or dented or broken, and commit yourself once again to ‘tikkun olam,’” he said.
In his first Baccalaureate service as dean of Yale College, Holloway likened the seniors’ college experience to a five-act play, whose denouement awaits them beyond Yale. Beginning with a passage from Shakespeare’s “As You Like it,” Holloway offered a reading for each “act,” or year, of the seniors’ time at Yale. “Act one,” or freshman year, featured the essay “The Opposite of Loneliness” by the late Marina Keegan ’12, while Holloway earned big laughs for quoting the song “Thrift Shop” by popular artist Macklemore to encapsulate sophomore year. He closed with a passage from Colson Whitehead’s novel “Sag Harbor” as denouement, offering the seniors a peek at what “act five,” life after Yale, may look like.
In keeping with recent tradition, Holloway ended by alluding to the closing passage of John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” comparing the Class of 2015’s commencement to Adam and Eve’s exit from the Garden of Eden.
“We are waiting, excited to find out what you will become,” he said. “Go forth, Class of 2015 — leave this Eden hand in hand.”
Following the addresses, attendees sung a hymn and heard a brief benediction from Roman Catholic Chaplain Robert Louis Beloin.